Preview – We’ve made it. The light at the end of the tunnel, which was as small as a star in the sky just last year, is now spotlight sized and fixed right on The Banc of California Stadium. Today, for the first time since March 2020, LAFC will be playing in a stadium at full capacity. The entirety of the 3252 will be on hand as the black and gold host the Houston Dynamo.
LAFC Finally Playing to a Capacity Crowd as Fans Return to The Banc in Full Force, LAFC Looking to Return to Winning Ways
While most teams around the MLS will be operating at full capacity this weekend, it means more to LAFC. There is no argument that Los Angeles is a different team in front of home fans. It’s perhaps been the most interesting part of the pandemic play. The way LAFC went from nearly unbeatable at home, to spectacularly average in the midst of losing the fan atmosphere. “The team is also, very excited to have our fans back inside the stadium. They love playing in front of our fans” said Head Coach Bob Bradley during his media availability.
In many ways, this weekend will serve as a bit of a reboot to the season. The team is coming off the International Break, giving them a couple of weeks to get healthy, and get some more training in. In addition, they return to a sense of normalcy, as the 3252. returns to cheer them on in full force. In many ways, tonight, will be the opening match of the season.
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— LAFC (@LAFC) June 19, 2021
Light the Candle, Spark the Team
For better or worse, the black and gold goes, as Carlos Vela goes. After an injury delayed the start to his season, and with two weeks to focus on training and healing, Vela looks to return to MVP form. If LAFC want to secure a spot in the postseason, that’s exactly what they will need. Speaking ahead of the Houston match, Carlos Vela spoke on his motivations. “Personally, when I have the pressure of the fans, I play better. I feel like, oh, it’s game day, and I have to show our fans how good I am.” The pressure is most certainly on for LAFC, and with fans returning, so too will the groans should the continue to come out flat. If this is how Vela thrives, expect a world-class performance from the Captain tonight.
After enjoying the stretches of training and recovery that come with the International Break, the madness is back at its peak. Over the next week, Los Angeles will play three matches. Defender Tristan Blackmon spoke on the importance of balancing body management, and maintaining the intensity needed to return to winning ways consistently. ” I think the main thing for us is the intensity, bringing it each and every day because we know this time is going to be really busy. We’re trying to get on the right foot, that’s it, we all want to get to our best this time of year.”
The Last Word
The story of the night, and rightly so, is the return of the fans in full. No more sections, no more limitations, just back to being shoulder to shoulder. Tonight is one of the biggest matches on the season, no hyperbole. With fans there to provide the energy, with weeks to get refocused and recovered, it’s time to right the proverbial ship. The Dynamo sit just inside the playoffs, while LAFC are currently on the outside looking in. With a Western Conference heavy schedule this year, due to regionalized matches, this is another big opportunity to remain in the postseason conversation. In all honesty, tonight should end with a big LAFC win at The Banc. Everything is set up for them to make a statement, now, they just have to go make it.